LAOAG, Ilocos Norte, Feb. 4, 2011â€”A painstaking restoration job is underway in Ilocos Norte, the rebuilding of San Jose de Dingras Church, a 15th century-old building
Project organizers said they would like to restore the townâ€™s church heritage to look like the original, which has been considered one of the most picturesque facades in the country.
The church was ruined and rebuilt many times on separate historical periods beginning 1707 until the structure became unsafe and was finally abandoned in 1931. Catholics used a chapel built inside the ruins for church services.
The provinceâ€™s Philippine Information Agency said it was in the late 1990s that the church began asking support from parishioners locally and abroad and restored the ruins.
Metal sheets perched on steel columns replaced the churchâ€™s original roofing while its walls that bore deep fissures and cracks were strengthened.
Conservation groups said the churchâ€™s architecture, along with the churches of San Nicolas, Piddig, Sarrat and Vintar, all in the Diocese of Laoag, follows the character of the Vignola masterpiece of the Church of Il Gesu in Rome.
The International Council for Monuments and Sites Philippines have expressed disagreement with the restoration plan saying that tearing down the original faÃ§ade and substituting it with a replica would mean losing an important symbol of Ilocos architecture.
â€œBefore its rehabilitation, the faÃ§ade was said to have been leaning inwards prompting church officials to secure the structureâ€™s inner section with temporary support made of steel poles,â€ the PIA Ilocos Norte said in an article posted at its website.
â€œThe outer section was pulled outwards using cables attached to the base of a statue and centuries-old acacia tree fronting the church.â€
Amid calls to preserve the old faÃ§ade, the Laoag diocese has already consulted a team of technical experts from the National Historical Institute and the Historical Preservation Commission.
A rehabilitation plan drawn in 2009 laid out the restoration plans in detail including the cost of materials and repairs that amounted to about P9.2 million.
The plan bore the stamp of approval from Architect Reynaldo Inovero, of the NHI and chief of the Historical Preservation Commission.
In his marginal note dated Nov. 23, 2009 on the design, Inovero said â€œthe rehabilitation plan is an acceptable method to preserve the church faÃ§ade.â€
Inovero further advised the church to undertake a geotechnical study of the foundation in addition to the plan. (CBCPNews)